Pruning trees - Background Knowledge

Trees develop and the weather develops. Both of them form a predictable system. Just follow the logic of growth, and you will know the right time for the tree cut!


pruning an apple tree

Trees develop and the weather develops, too. Both of them form a predictable system. Just follow the logic of growth, and you will know the right time for pruning any tree.

Principly not a single tree needs a cut!  It is always an unnatural operation, which reduces the life time of the tree due to the loss of nutrients and spreading area. But for us humans, there are some very good reasons to cut them nonetheless. For example to keep a sprawling tree smaller. Or to avert danger by storm damage and breaking branches. Or to increase the harvest of fruit trees. Or to optimize the form. These reasons may be called cut for relief, cut for harvest and cut for form.

Basically, it is always best to cut the tree when it has already lost its leaves. At this time he has pulled back its juices back into stem and roots and loses the least nutrients. For the gardener it is also best because it can accurately detect where to cut. On the other hand a cut without leaves also generates less plant material that has to be disposed. Biologically the favorable time for the trees is pruning in late winter until the first bud break. But there are some exceptions. Some trees you should not cut anyway if possible, since they can be susceptible to plant diseases or may let die off entire branches. This includes for example the Magnolia (because of broom shoots), Maple (because of bleeding), the Birch and the Walnut. These are not all, but the he last ones tend to bleed extremely, when cut in Spring. As a matter of fact they leave giant puddles after a cut in winter or spring. The wounds bleed like a source and drops dripping out every second. Therefore, the logic concludes that it is for heavily bleeding trees best to cut when they don't drip. That means still in the leafy state, in or at the at the end of the summer. Although they lose a lot of leaf green, they won't bleed out and still have plenty of time for to heal the wounds until winter. If there are doubts what kind of tree you have, do a test cut and wait several days. Sometimes the bleeding does'nt occure immediately.


The pruning of conifers is a special art, since almost all of them only drive at the tips of their branches. The rest in the inner is dry and brown. This means that each section must be carefully considered so that there remain no half- dead skeletons. In deciduous trees, the rule is that each section is an incentive to growth and thereby at least 2 new shoots will be formed. Depending on the thickness of the section there can be many more. The places at the branch where it has to be cut is usually easily visible. There are small twigs that a gardener calls "eyes". Only these are small swellings have the ability to shoot again. But, depending on the plant, there are also so called "sleeping eyes", which do not differ from the rest of bark, but are still are capable to drive new branches.